Learning to Let Go

For the longest time, I was a believer in playing games to completion no matter what. A large part of this sentiment was codified back in my semi-official reviewing days in which we were required to beat a given game before we could review it. That always seemed like a reasonable request, and it meshed rather nicely with my general sense of optimism (…stop laughing) regarding the possibility of a game making up for its earlier shortcomings in the 11th hour. Kind of like… err… huh. I can’t think of any examples at the moment, but I’m sure there are some. And maybe this next game will be the one!

In the past few weeks, I have made a concerted effort to abandon such sentiments.

You might have noticed that I am reviewing less games these days. While I still enjoy writing reviews, I’m less convinced that many of the games I play either need or deserve them. I finished Batman: Arkham Asylum a few days ago, for example, but who out there would really benefit from my take on a game which has two sequels and a derivative (Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor) already? It’s an open question if anyone benefits from any review I do, but at least more topical games are easier to justify to myself. Once the “review potential” of a game is reduced to zero, I no longer feel any need to finish it.

Or, in some cases, even start them. My original plan was to start playing the old Tomb Raiders before starting the Square Enix reboot, but I just “Nope’d” out of there after seeing some screenshots. Company of Heroes was played just long enough to start realizing that I liked Dawn of War better. I started playing Thief Gold two days ago and stopped this afternoon. Minutes before writing this post, I was going through the tutorial of Fable: the Lost Chapters; camera was a little too wonky for my tastes though, and now here we are.

I still do feel a little bad when I banish a Steam game into my Finished category, as obviously I spent some amount of money acquiring it at some indeterminate point in ages past. But on the other hand? I can acknowledge that I have likely past the threshold beyond which there are more legitimately fun games that I am actually excited to play than I have time on this mortal coil to do so. Perhaps it is crass to say, but… if I had cancer, would I spent my remaining time playing the original Hitman? Or, really, any of the Hitman games (I’ve heard Blood Money is the best though)? Probably not.

It pains me to know other people will not likely experience the joy that was Xenogears or Tenchu or whatever, but I understand the dilemma now more than ever. No matter how good Game X was for Y reason, sometimes the Z era was what made it so. Can I really appreciate the original Thief in the proper context of its time? Well, I did make it to the third level before shutting it down. I have heard conflicting reports as to whether the Thief reboot lived up to its lineage, but I am now more inclined to spend the $6 (deal is over, alas) to purchase the new one than I am to play through the original(s).

In any case, that is where I am at the moment. I’m not opposed to older games, but they will have to work extraordinarily hard (and quickly) to keep my attention, starting now. Ain’t nobody got time to play games out of some misguided sense of obligation.

Posted on December 18, 2014, in Philosophy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’m with you. There’s far too much entertainment in the world to waste an excess of time giving something more and more chances to impress me. Best to cut my losses early!


    • I’ve discovered that it becomes a lot easier once I realized that damn near every unplayed game was a 3rd-person action game. Batman, Assassin’s Creed 3, Darksiders 2, and about 20+ others. Nothing against those games or that style, but damn.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s not just old games, although they do cast the problem into sharpest relief. There is indeed far too much digital entertainment available too easily, and I wonder whether we are equipped to apply to it the same kind of discernment and forbearance most of us bring to other sources of pleasure.

    I am a little worried about the impact of all this ‘gotta hook’em in the first play session’ competition on the continued creation of games with a decent learning curve and depth. Things like, say, the Paradox strategy subgenre might become simply inaccessible under the onslaught of 30-hour titles with front-loaded excitement.


    • It’s probably a fair concern about Paradox titles – I bought Crusader Kings 2 and just couldn’t get into it – but I can’t help but feel that if the learning curve itself isn’t fun… well, that’s on them. “Instant gratification” gets a bad rap, but how often does a game end up relying on Sunk Cost Fallacy for its “fun?” More often than we care to admit, I’d say.

      There’s nothing better than watching a well-laid plan come to fruition, for sure. But there’s nothing worse than realizing you’ve spent the last 2+ hours playing an unfun game. Meanwhile, front-loaded fun is, well, fun. Kinda hard to argue with that.


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